OAKLAND -- For years, urban planners and environmentalists have dreamed of an urban trail from Oakland to Hayward to add greenery and recreation to some of the most congested and gritty parts of the East Bay.
Now a short first leg of the $20 million to $30 million Greenway Trail is about to get off the ground. There is hope it will generate more funding and partners interested in helping build other sections of the 12-mile hiking and biking trail.
Down the road, planners hope to add another 10 miles to extend the trail a total of 22 miles into Fremont.
The Alameda County Transportation Commission agreed Thursday to seek bidders for a contract to build a trail segment measuring three-quarters of a mile long near the Oakland Coliseum.
The 12-mile trail through Oakland, San Leandro and Hayward has a long way to go.
Transportation and recreation managers, however, said beginning the first segment will provide momentum and experience in pulling together partners, funding and strategies to eventually deliver a trail through five cities.
"You have to start somewhere," said Art Dao, the commission's executive director. "We view this as a pilot project for an important trail in an era of multimodal transportation planning. Our freeway capacity is maxing out, and we have to move people other ways as well."
The strategy is to build a paved trail connecting five BART stations so people can walk and pedal safely to public
"This is creating new open space in parts of Oakland that really need it," said Renee Rivera, executive director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. "This provides a protected trail for people who don't feel comfortable riding bicycles on the street along car traffic."
The first trail phase will be along a route between the BART Coliseum station and 85th Avenue.
Work is expected to start in spring.
Funding it wasn't simple, providing a hint of challenges ahead for a trail that eventually could span 22 miles and cost perhaps $60 or $70 million, officials said.
While it won't own the trail, the East Bay Regional Park District stepped in to provide more than $1 million from a federal grant for a program aimed at making communities more livable, environmentally sustainable and economically competitive. The district also chipped in more than $200,000 in local park bond money.
"We see the Greenway Trail as an important link in trails in the East Bay that gives people the opportunity to walk and bike," said Jim Townsend, the district's manager of trail development.
An eleventh hour snag threatened the first segment. Oakland, fighting budget and crime problems, said it couldn't take financial responsibility to maintain the segment.
To keep the project alive, the Alameda County Transportation Commission pledged $400,000 from county transportation sales taxes to set up a long-term maintenance fund for the segment.
"This was a one-time thing we had to do to save the project," Dao said. "This showed us we to need to work out standards and agreements for future segments of the project."
The first section will be built under elevated BART tracks, but Dao said planners want to buy a nearby underutilized Union Pacific Railroad right of way for the trail.
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.